Retreat Storage – Shipping Containers

If you are lucky enough to have a retreat or BOL, you should have a way to secure and protect your supplies.

You can build a structure, get a shed, get a trailer, bury it in a hole, leave it outside, hang it in a tree, or – as we did – get a shipping container.

Containers are relatively cheap (we paid 2K for ours, plus 300 to get it dropped off in the middle of nowhere,) wind/water/pest proof, and pretty secure.

How To Get One:
Getting a storage container is not hard, the most difficult portion is finding someone to haul it and drop it off, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere. I checked Craigslist for storage containers under the for sale section, and found a vendor in the closest town to my BOL. I also called other local vendors found on Google to get a good idea on prices for my area. This is important because prices can differ greatly depending on distance to a port, local taxes, and supply/demand. Just because you can find one on the East Coast for 2K doesn’t mean you could find one for the same price in Montana.

Armed with knowledge, I negotiated with my supplier for 2K for a slightly used 20′ container. This was pretty good considering they normally go for $2600 or so. I selected the 20′ one because a 40-footer would require a larger truck and trailer, and I was not sure it could make it on the curvy dirt roads on the way to my property.

Most of these vendors have delivery service, but most service ends when paved roads do… not very helpful for someone in my situation. The point being, check with the seller if they deliver – you may be able to skip finding a delivery service if you do.

Once again I checked Craigslist for a delivery service. I use CL because I live 400 or so miles from my BOL, can not check things out locally for myself, and find people more willing to negotiate rates. (I actually traded gold eagles once for a guy to cut a driveway and level a pad on the property.) CL was getting no results, so I posted an ad in the temp work section, and quickly had a few responses that I could work with. When getting any outside services to assist on work at your BOL, always remember OPSEC and trust your gut – you may get a good deal on some work, but it will be all for naught if he comes back and steals all your crap.

I selected a driver, and had him meet me at the shipping container vendor’s place of business. I paid for the container, and the vendor loaded the container on my drivers trailer with a forklift.

The driver followed me out to the property, got it off-loaded (chaining the container to a tree and slowly driving off) and got paid.

Setting It Up
You can set up your container however you like. As long as you don’t mess up the structural integrity, they are dry and keep out all sorts of pests. I have seen some really cool cabins built using these containers as a base.

This was our first structure on the property, and was set up as a camping supply and support building. We lightly insulated it with this foil-bubble wrap stuff because it works ok and space is at a premium (it’s thin.) You can see it in the pic below towards the back, this was before we finished all the walls. In our area, this is enough insulation – temps rarely get outside of 60-80 degrees.

I had to level mine out a little bit, so I got a car jack and some bricks. Each corner has a “foot” that is perfectly sized for two standard bricks sitting next to each other. One corner took a stack three high, another two, one took one, and the back right corner took none. Now, I know there are better ways of doing this – but this was a cheap, easy solution that lifted the majority of the container a few inches off the ground, which I figure could help with rust and water from the random summer monsoons we get.

As you can see in the picture, I set it up to hold various supplies. The front counter is my “kitchen” with a water filter and stove tops. I got some cheap roll-out carpets to place over the treated wood floors (those floors have so many dang splinters, something had to be done.)

As time goes on, more of these containers are getting dropped on the property. I think of each one as a two-part building unit – meaning you could put a divider down the center, and create two 8×10 rooms. So, one could be a living room and bedroom, the other a kitchen and supply room.

Now, go buy your own container and drop it off in the middle of nowhere.

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5 Responses to Retreat Storage – Shipping Containers

  1. Eugene says:

    Remember: inside of these containers get super hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
    temperature will fluctuate wildly (30-50F) inside these things, i wouldn’t store any canned/processed food there for a long period of time

    • Eugene: This is very true!

      We have been recording what our temp levels are so we can make a good decision on if we can keep those types of food for more than a short period. We use the location as a camping/recreational/hunting property as well as a BOL, so some canned foods are a “luxury” we like to endulge from time to time.

      We have added more insulation, and taken other measures to regulate tempature and so far have experienced only a slight fluxuation; mid 50’s on the low end to low 80’s on the high end. Outside temp’s were in the 30’s to the high 90’s. We have not yet experienced a winter with the contaner, where for a few weeks it gets down to the 10’s to 30’s, but summer seemed ok.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Realist says:

    I converted a box a couple of years ago. The one thing that I noticed was that when it was 80 degrees outside it was about 120 degrees inside, the box was brown. I shot it with a coat of white primer and that lowered the temperature down to about the same as the outside temp. I put down a 1 inch T&G plywood on the floor. I kinda went overboard by framing it out with 2x4s for the wall and 2×6 for the ceiling. The studs were toe nailed to the plywood flooring. I then put rigid insulation between the studs. The box was wired for lights and electrical plugs and then I then covered everything with plywood. The inside never gets over 75 degrees when it is closed up. One other thing I did do it increase the ventilation to the box. Each box already has small vents. I chose to cut larger ones with a reciprocal saw; the hole was about 6 by 8 inches with one on each side. I then covered the hole with aluminum louvers; once it was painted over you cannot tell the difference. The next stage was to paint the roof with Cool Roof which is a rubberized paint that is very thick, it worked better to lower the inside temp. For anyone that has ever considered getting a Conex box all I can say is don’t wait.

  3. Realist – You are a wealth of information, as time allows I think I will do exactly as you stated to enhance the containers performance.

  4. realist954 says:

    I know this was a long time ago but did you ever finish yours out? I am looking at buying several for my location.

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